An interesting discussion about the upscaling of classic Doctor Who to 4K for rebroadcast and new commercial release led me to The Colorization Channel on YouTube, where small clips of black and white episodes of the show have been converted to colour, for demonstration purposes.
For those of you not familiar with the term, put simply, 4K upscaling takes a regular broadcast or recording and makes improves the picture, making images appear sharper, with richer colours and deeper blacks. So if you watch BBC One on an HD TV and then on a 4K UHD TV you’ll notice an improvement – even though the source isn’t native 4K.
The technology behind this is improving rapidly, and while of course it would be better to shoot a show in 4K, like Planet Earth II, for example, the kit is still expensive and no-one was using it back in the 1960s when the original Doctor Who episodes were made in black and white.
Recent examples of 4K restorations of images of the original TARDIS crew from the first broadcast episode of An Unearthly Child led Doctor Who strip writer and editor Scott Gray to suggest on Twitter that fans were “eventually going to be watching full-colour, 4-K versions of 60s Doctor Who. Probably a lot sooner than any of us imagine“.
Designer and artist Paul Burley agreed, noting that “it’s not 100% there yet, but a fully remastered/upscaled HD version of An Unearthly Child in time for the 60th Anniversary isn’t beyond the realms of possibility… I’m not sure how it would factor in things that aren’t human faces, mind. It does a great job of removing noise.”
Following the Twitter conversation through to Doctor Who fan Pip Madeley‘s post of the Unearthly Child images led me to The Colorization Channel on YouTube, which offers demonstrations in colorisation techniques and very short example clips, including scenes from An Unearthly Child starring William Hartnell and the Patrick Troughton stories such as The Tomb of the Cybermen and, most recently, The Web of Fear.
These aren’t the only examples of restoration and colorisation out there of course, but the demonstrations of how such work can done is certainly intriguing.
Whether it should be done, of course, is an entirely different discussion! Obviously, I’m very well aware that the whole subject of colorisation of black and white recordings and upscaling – indeed, any perceived “tampering” with original stories – is often a matter of heated debate. And not just for Doctor Who, either.
But the work presented by The Colorization Channel is at least worth a look, if only to see how far the technology is advancing.
Do you think black and white episodes of Doctor Who or other shows originally filmed in black and white should be reworked in colour or upscaled?
Speaking personally, I’d argue those who originally created shows Doctor Who aimed to deliver their stories utilising the best technology available to them at the time. Technology has moved on, so is it worth considering using these new techniques to potentially capture new audiences?
With to Scott Gray for highlighting the technological developments